Customs tackles case of suspected wrongly accepting payment under civil compliance-based mechanism

28 Nov 2014

The Customs and Excise Department (C&ED), after seeking the consent of the Secretary for Justice, has accepted a written undertaking made under the civil compliance-based mechanism of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO) by an online baby products shop suspected to have contravened the TDO.

A C&ED spokesman said today (November 28) that the C&ED received a number of complaints and referrals from the Consumer Council earlier this year about an online shop for baby products. The allegation indicated that the shop had accepted orders and payment from consumers for powdered formula, and was unable to supply the products to customers at the agreed time and did not make full refunds. The shop was suspected to have engaged in conduct that constituted wrongly accepting payment under Section 13I of the TDO.

The C&ED initiated investigation into the complaints. The shop was co-operative in the course of investigation and proposed to undertake in writing not to continue or repeat the conduct concerned and would take remedial actions. Having fully assessed the proposal, the C&ED accepted the undertaking for a period of two years under the TDO upon obtaining consent from the Secretary for Justice. The undertaking has been uploaded to Customs' homepage (

The C&ED spokesperson stressed that if the online shop breached any terms of the undertaking, the C&ED might withdraw the acceptance of the undertaking pursuant to the TDO and commence investigation and instigate legal proceedings.

Under Section 13I of the TDO, it is a criminal offence if, at the time of a trader's accepting payment for a product, there are no reasonable grounds for believing that the trader will be able to supply the products within the period specified by the trader or within a reasonable period, or the trader intends not to supply the product or intends to supply a materially different product. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.

Under Section 30L of the TDO, a civil compliance-based mechanism has been put in place to encourage compliance by traders and to settle matters concerned expeditiously. The C&ED, having regard to the nature, actual circumstances of the case and relevant factors, may accept an undertaking from the traders involved after obtaining written consent from the Secretary for Justice.

Members of the public may report any suspected violations of the TDO to the Customs 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.

Ends/Friday, November 28, 2014

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